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Fah Thai Magazine July/August 2017

OVERTURES ARTS &

OVERTURES ARTS & CULTURAL MATTERS Words: Sarita Urupongsa The Combat and the Glory Photos courtesy of Tourism Authority of Thailand For as long as can be remembered, “Muay Thai” or Thai Boxing proudly belongs to the cultural heritage of Thai people. In the old days, the grand size of the Kingdom of Thailand shared borders next to numerous countries, resulting in constant territorial battles. Almost every Thai man then was trained in using ancient weapons such as a sabre, a wood staff, sword, halberd or a lance. Combine that with the skills of Muay Thai, whose combat tactics require the use of all limbs – both hands, feet, elbows and knees and invincibility can happen. These days, Muay Thai evolved from ancient boxing styles whose variations derived through local expertise. There’s Muay Ta Sao in the North, Muay Korat in the Northeast and Muay Chaiya in the South, for example. As time passed, Muay Thai became a sport and competition with an entertainment purpose. Classification is indicated by a boxer’s weight, which is similar to international boxing standards. The main highlight before a Muay Thai match begins with the unique beauty of “Wai Khru” a ritual performed as a means to show respect to the teaching masters. Both competing boxers would prostrate 3 times to show their gratitude towards their parents, masters and sacred beings. While performing the ritual, the boxers would wear a “Mongkol” or a headband made of holy threads. Wearing the Mongkol is considered a sacred act as masters performed their own blessing ceremony for the headband’s auspiciousness. The combat moves and self-protection prowess of Muay Thai has fascinated many people as it reflects an identity that’s one of a kind, whose punches and moves differ from that of international boxing. Muay Thai is unique not only for its use of fists, but also of feet, knees and elbows. Furthermore, the style comes with many tactical moves such as a spiral punch and knee strike – combat moves which have caught keen interest around the world. As the national sport rose to global proportions, the Thai government introduced the “Thai Fight” competition, to search for the King of Muay Thai in 2010. The project aimed at bringing international recognition to the importance of Muay Thai and Thailand’s role as the home of this combat skill. A combination of Muay Thai and entertainment showcases the Thai Fight, an international sports event attracting Thai and foreign boxers as well as gaining an audience that continues to grow. The competition boasts authentic Muay Thai skills and opens up the opportunity for fighters from everywhere in the world to participate in this traditional combat event. Recognising the value of Muay Thai as a sport in the international community, the United Nations signed the MOA in cooperation with the World Muaythai Council and the International Federation of Muaythai Amateur. Muay Thai is now on its way to be included as one of the sports in the Olympic Games. 30 31